Wildlife photographer and entomologist Mark Moffett told reporters he found the weta bug after searching for two nights through the island’s vegetation.
Moffett has been dubbed the “Indiana Jones of Entomology” by the National Geographic Society.
The giant wetapunga is a cricket-like creature with a 7-inch wingspan that can weigh more than a sparrow.
Moffett claims his find is the largest weta on record. But New Zealand insect expert Ruud Kleinpaste tells the New Zealand Herald that Moffett’s find is no big deal and not the largest ever found.
He said that while the wetapunga are endangered, he’s seen at least one every time he’s visited Little Barrier Island.
The trustee of Little Barrier Island Supporters Trust says he thinks the worldwide publicity of the insect is “wonderful as long as weta get the attention and not that idiot American.”
A giant weta breeding program has been conducted for the past two years in Auckland by experienced breeder Paul Barrett.
There were plans to introduce 25 of the giant insects to Tiritiri Matangi Island during the weekend of December 9-11.
Photos: Mark Moffet